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Coach K up against the clock
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That’s not a stretch.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski turned 63 back in February. Those close to him say they expect him keep going for a while – at the very least until he becomes the all-time winningest coach in Div. I history, surpassing his mentor, Bob Knight.
Coack K has 866 career victories, a mere 36 shy of Knight.
If that’s the case, that’ll happen in two years.
"He doesn’t just want to break it,” said one person close to Krzyzewski. "He wants to shatter it."
No one thought it would be a six-year hiatus for Coach K from the last time he appeared in the Final Four – back in 2004 with J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams.
Since then, the Blue Devils haven’t gotten past the Sweet 16.
Krzyzewski has three national titles to his credit – back-to-backs in 1991 and 1992 and another one nine years ago.
Those were the days when you could pretty much just mark Duke down on your bracket to win at least four games and breathe easy. The Blue Devils were among the final quartet for five consecutive seasons from 1988 to 1992.
They were a machine.
But something has happened over the last few years.
North Carolina has, other than this past season, established a measure of dominance since Matt Doherty was replaced by Roy Williams. The Tar Heels have won two national titles since Duke was last in the Final Four.
Duke’s recruiting hasn’t been nearly as powerful as it had been back in the day. They used to be able to identify an elite player and it was a lock they would wind up luring him to Durham.
That’s no longer the case.
Even the ones that they have gotten haven’t lived up to the hype. Guys like Josh McRoberts, Greg Paulus, Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek,
Few thought this Blue Devils team – one that is built around a trio of good college players in Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith – would get back to the promised land.
Duke lost Gerald Henderson Jr. early to the NBA and was shocked with the transfer of starting guard Elliott Williams back home to Memphis in the offseason.
It’s hardly an intimidating group, but Krzyzewski has orchestrated one of his most impressive coaching jobs in a 35-year career that dates back to Army in 1976.
But the truth is this was a season of mediocrity, not parity.
2010 NCAA Tourney
Final Four results:
Brackets and more:
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- Check your bracket | Print one
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Now, believe it or not, Coach K doesn’t just have an opportunity to win a fourth national title with two more wins – including one Saturday night against West Virginia.
The Blue Devils enter the Final Four as the favorite to cut down the nets on Monday night in Indianapolis. They would have to take care of Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers and then beat the winner of the Butler-Michigan State game.
Duke will lose its point guard, Scheyer, and veteran big man Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas off this year’s team. Much of the hopes for next season rest on the fate of talented freshman floor leader Kyrie Irving, who will come in and immediately slide into Scheyer’s spot.
All signs point to Singler returning for his senior campaign, but that’s still not a guarantee – and Coach K and his staff lost out on the top-ranked player in the country, athletic forward Harrison Barnes, to that other team on Tobacco Road.
There’s certainly a chance that Coach K could make another appearance next season – especially if the Plumlee brothers – Mason and Miles – make significant strides, Irving is ready to make an instant impact and Singler returns for his final go-around.
But those are all ifs.
Stephen Curry’s little brother, Seth, becomes eligible after sitting out this year following a transfer from Liberty – and two more freshmen 6-foot-8 power forward Josh Hairston and guard Tyler Thornton – will join the program.
While the future looks brighter in Durham, it’s still far from a lock that Krzyzewski will return to the Final Four.
What if it takes six more years?
I’m not sure Coach K will still be around.
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